Monday, August 29, 2016

Gateway Drug

It starts with the weak stuff at the diner when you are sixteen and order two eggs over-easy with hashbrowns and get permission to drink what might as well be dishwater it is so thin. But the little boost you get from that swill in a 1950s cup with chips and stains from too much use is enough to pique your cravings. Before you know it you are on a bike tour in northern Wisconsin and need the drug to cover the next 32 miles to the campsite. Before you know it again you are in college, getting up to go to your job in the student union while it is still dark and the wind outside is screaming off of some iceberg in Greenland and you don't even eat because you need that fix. One day, the barista, a friendly little pusher-woman, offers you a free shot of espresso because it is free-shot Monday. The brown bloom and the extra kick send you into a heightened caffeine-induced ecstasy. You ask for another. Then you hit the streets in search of Italian espresso beans, the mainline. Your kitchen fills with roasters, burr grinders, steaming gleaming stainless steel steamers. Your dreams are laced with lattes. The cupboards fill with tiny cups for the strong stuff. You hide beans under your bed and lie to your friends about why you are smiling all the time. You carry a portable grinder on backpacking trips and refuse to go anywhere that doesn't serve coffee. Your bank account drains into boutique varieties of Joe and you travel to the source and sneak onto cafetales in Central America to pick the raw cherries of the strongest brew. Your eyes are crazed. Your hands tremble. The jitters haunt your dreams. Your wife says you smell like French roast. You hit bottom and seek professional help. They tell you what you really want is just hot water. You try. It doesn't take. You wander the arroyos, sleep under bridges, carry grounds in a plastic bag, share your secrets of perfect water temperatures. You keep the company of other junkies. When your time comes, and the hooded reaper stands at the door with his scythe poised sharp as a scalpel, you ask if he can wait while you brew just one more for the road.

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